A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Get Carter is a raw and cynical 1971 British hoodlum caper in which Carter, a gang hit man, leaves London to find out which two-bit gangsters from his hometown killed his brother and why. Gambling, porn films, underage sex, murder, and general seediness are all part of his world. Carter is a practical sadist who handles his job with neither mercy nor conscience. Women's breasts and buttocks are seen. Alcohol and cigarettes are plentiful, the former playing a role in two deaths. Stabbing and shootings are also featured. Language includes "s--t," "bitch," and "bastard." A man hits another with a tree limb. A man deliberately injects a woman with a lethal dose of a drug and she dies. A driver deliberately crashes into a car. A man puts a woman in his car trunk. Later he watches that car get pushed off a dock into the water and does nothing to save her. A man holds a woman under water to get information. A man is thrown off a building to his death. A man is stabbed to death. Blood is seen.
What's the story?
The lowlife British hitman that gives GET CARTER its title is played by the appealing, tall, handsome Michael Caine at the height of his leading man status in 1971. On hearing of the suspicious death of his brother (drunk in a car, even though he didn't drink), Carter takes a leave from his London gang to head back to his less sophisticated but equally corrupt hometown to investigate. He looks up old acquaintances in the gang world there and slowly unravels a convoluted story that revolves around illegal, homemade porn movies (back when they were on reels of celluloid), prostitution, and gambling, all played out in a seedy atmosphere among players with little regard for the value of life. Carter is brazen, threatening, and lethal in his dealings with denizens of this world. He forces a woman to strip and injects her with enough of something to kill her. He beats someone to death with the butt of his rifle. Much of this is done in broad daylight, without any seeming concern for covering his tracks. He sets up an innocent ally to be kidnapped and beaten to a pulp, then offers nothing but a wad of money as compensation. When he identifies the men who conspired to kill his brother, he eliminates them one by one, eventually paying a price for all the violence himself.
Is it any good?
The ins and outs of old slights among a large cast of characters make this film difficult to follow at times. Get Carter embodies sadistic, misogynist, and macho elements of crime movies of earlier British and Hollywood eras, but here the violence and sexuality are designed to be more shocking and explicit, in line with loosened film codes of the 1960s and 1970s that allowed bare breasts, sexual talk and graphic gore. Carter's contempt for and abuse of women and his ruthless treatment of enemies are disturbing, but there's a clear attempt to elevate him by way of casting the gleaming movie star Caine.
Young viewers may find it quaint that so much business is transacted by pay phone in this artifact of pre-cell phone life. Teens will also notice the way the movie manufactures a desire in the audience to root for the title character on his quest to avenge a brother's death and also the way this sets up a moral conflict, as it's clear that the "hero" is truly evil.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the complexity of a terrible man's desire for vengeance against those who killed his brother. Is it strange that Carter wants to get back at people for killing his innocent brother, but that he doesn't care about harming other innocent people in the process?
How does Get Carter try to make us sympathetic to the character of Carter? How does it try to make us dislike him?
Do you think casting a then well-known, good-looking movie star was part of a deliberate effort to make the evil Carter seem more appealing? Did it work?
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